Like many people, Dr. Hadiyah-Nicole Green’s life has been marred by cancer. Both her aunt and uncle, who raised Green after she lost her parents, were diagnosed with the disease while she was in school. 

The cancer sadly killed her aunt, but by that time, Green had started a journey that might just change the way the world treats cancer.

She got a degree in Physics from Alabama A&M and then — after being crowned homecoming queen — got a full-ride scholarship to the University of Alabama, where she got her master's and Ph.D., making her one of fewer than 100 Black female physicists in the country. 

She’s putting her genius to good use, figuring out a way to use lasers to remove cancer cells. 

It’s as cool as it sounds, and it’s been successfully used on animals. Her work is so promising that she secured a $1.1 million grant to continue working on it.

Green saw firsthand how difficult cancer treatment can be. Her aunt chose to forgo chemotherapy during her own battle with cancer, deciding she wanted to avoid the common side effects of such treatment. 

And Green took a few months away from school to help her uncle with his own treatment and assist him during the radiation treatment. 

The medical technology that she’s working on today wouldn’t carry the sort of side effects patients get from chemo and radiation. That’s part of what makes it so exciting.

“I’m really hoping this can change the way we treat cancer in America,” Green told AL. “There are so many people who only get a three-month or six-month survival benefit from the drugs they take. Then three or six months later, they’re sent home with no hope, nothing else we can do. Those are the patients I want to try to save, the ones where regular medicine isn’t effective for them.”

A version of this article was originally published in Issue 01 of the Goodnewspaper in 2017.